Indiana Hoosiers claim preseason No. 1 in USA Today Coaches Poll

Tom Crean’s restoration project of Indiana University basketball has pretty much come full-circle.

After being crippled by NCAA sanctions stemming from former coach Kelvin Sampson’s violations, struggling through six-, 10- and 12-win seasons his first three  years in Bloomington, and leading a remarkable turnaround in 2012-13 that resulted in a Sweet 16 appearance, Crean has his Hoosiers sitting atop the USA Today Coaches preseason poll, released today.

With key returnees in Player of the Year Candidate Cody Zeller, senior Christian Watford and juniors Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey — plus a loaded freshman class dubbed “The Movement” — Indiana appears poised for a run at a sixth NCAA championship, which is remarkable given all the program has been through in recent years.

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Indiana Hoosiers Starting to Feel Grind of Big Ten Slate

 

All in all, the Indiana Hoosiers still are in a greatly encouraging spot right now compared to where they’ve been at this point each of the last three seasons.

The resurgent Hoosiers, who have suffered through three years of aftermath of the Kelvin Sampson debacle, have finally found their way in this fourth year under coach Tom Crean, knocking off Nos. 1 and 2 teams (Kentucky and Ohio State, respectively) for the first time in program history en route to a 15-3 start and the team’s first appearance in the top-25 (and top-10) rankings for the first time since 2008.

It appears, though, the grind of the Big Ten schedule is starting to get to IU as the Hoosiers have dropped two straight conference contests — a completely lousy home loss to Minnesota last Thursday and a drubbing at Ohio State on Sunday.

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Indiana Hoosiers Are Back After Beating No. 1 Kentucky

Welcome back, Indiana University basketball.

It’s been way too long.

Fans in Bloomington and across the nation have been longing — aching — to utter those words after the fallout from the Kelvin Sampson fiasco and the subsequent 28 wins over the first three seasons of the Tom Crean era.

And what better way to usher in the Hoosiers’ resurgence than with an epic 73-72 upset of long-time rival and No. 1 Kentucky at Assembly Hall with a last-second 3-pointer by Christian Watford?

After what might have been one of the best games ever played in the famed basketball arena, fans legitimately can say their program is relevant again.

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Indiana Hoosiers Take Program’s Buzz into Kentucky Game

The week leading up to the Indiana University basketball game against No. 1 Kentucky at 5:15 today at Assembly Hall has been, in actuality, a rather controversial one in Bloomington.

IU Athletics sustained a bit of a public relations hit in reprimanding a group of students who planned to camp out in front of Assembly Hall for the entire week so that the fans could be first in line for the student section’s best first-come, first-serve seats on game day. The group dubbed itself “Camp Crean.”

The move initially was aimed at preventing the group from setting up a tent as the “Occupy” movement has hit Bloomington hard and heavy, but the students stayed a bit longer into the week before being encouraged to return home with front-of-the-line vouchers courtesy of the school’s athletic department.

While this saga has sparked a good bit of debate among social media, the overarching message is undebatable: The fact students were willing to stay in front of the storied arena is clear evidence that the buzz surrounding Indiana Hoosiers basketball is back.

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Top Ten Coaching Jobs in College Basketball

By: David K.

Billy Gillespie gets the boot at Kentucky after not meeting expectations in his two seasons.  John Calipari is attempting to pick up the pieces in Lexington as he bolts from Memphis to help re-build UK.  Tony Bennett leaves Washington State for Virginia while VCU’s Anthony Grant makes the jump from mid-major to major conference by taking the reigns at Alabama.  Ah yes, the college basketball coaching carousel is already spinning round and round.

When Tom Crean left Marquette to become the head coach at Indiana last year, his reasoning was simple; “Because It’s Indiana.  It’s Indiana.”  That sparked debate among my friends and me about the top ten coaching jobs in college basketball. Here is my list ranked 1-10, meaning if you left job #8 for job #6, it would be considered a step-up.

I took into consideration the following factors:
-the history of the program’s success
-success of the team under their current coach
-the longevity of past coach’s tenures
-recruiting abilities

10. Indiana-
This position has certainly taken a hit since the whole Kelvin Sampson debacle.  But as Tom Crean demonstrated when he left Marquette for IU, it is still a very desirable destination because “It’s Indiana.  It’s Indiana.”

Bob Knight not only left his stamp on this job by winning three NCAA Championships, but also because of his eccentric personality.  However, since the General took the Hoosiers to the Final Four in 1992, IU has only returned once (in 2002 as a five-seed in a season they finished with 12 losses.)  In fact, the program has had 13 double-digit loss seasons since 1994-’95 and have not made in past the second round of the tourney.

Long-term history helps Indiana’s stock, but if Crean does not get the Hoosiers back on the winning track soon, this job will continue to lose some of its glamour.

9. Arizona-

It is to be assumed that ‘Zona interim coach Russ Pennell will not retained after this off-season.   Arizona has already stated that they intend to hold a national search to fill the up-coming vacancy, and there should be a plethora of quality coaching candidates wanting to come to the desert this off-season.

The legendary Lute Olsen built the Wildcats into a national powerhouse before having to retire due to health reasons.  ‘Zona has made 25 straight trips to the tourney and because of it’s location out west, it is always a hotbed for high school recruits from all over the U.S.

8. Michigan State-
Since 1976 only two men have been in charge of the MSU program, Jud Heathcoate and Tom Izzo.  Izzo took the reigns in ’95 as has led the Spartans to a National Title and eleven straight trips to the Big Dance.  State hasn’t finished with a below .500 record in more than twenty years.

Sparty has taken control as “the team” in the Big Ten due to their success and the recent downfall of Indiana meaning they are the top program in the Midwest.



7. Syracuse-

Jim Boeheim has put Syracuse on the national map.  In his 33 years with the Orange, Boeheim has won 20-plus games in all but one season, won one National Championship, and finished runner-up twice.  All Big East schools get an extra boost in these rankings because it the elite conference in the country.  A lot of players want to play in the Big East and a lot of coaches want to coach in it as well.

When Boeheim decides to hang it up, this job will likely draw interest from numerous major conference coaches.

6. UConn-
What helps the Huskies most is that they are consistently one of the top teams in the premiere country in America.  Year-in and year-out, they bring in some of the top talent in the nation as 13 Huskies are currently in the NBA.

Jim Calhoun deserves much of the credit for bringing UConn to the upper-echelon of college hoops.  Since taking over in 1986, Connecticut has been to ten Elite 8’s and brought home two NCAA Titles.  When Calhoun steps down, probably in the next couple years, expect to see a lot of interest in his job.

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5. Kentucky-
Historically, Kentucky is the winningest college basketball program of all time.  But their “drought” during the past decade has decreased their current prominence.  They have not made the Final Four since 1998 when they won their seventh National Championship.

Adolf Rupp obviously put Kentucky on the map during his 42 year span as head coach.  Since then major names like Eddie Sutton and Rick Pitino have held the job.  But I think the recent defection of Tubby Smith to Minnesota and Billy Gillespie’s getting the quick pink slip hurts the value of this job a little bit.  Of course, with Calipari about to leave Memphis to head to UK, it also shows the value the position still holds.

4. Kansas-
When you look at KU’s coaches since 1983, it’s an impressive list; Larry Brown, Roy Williams, and Bill Self.  Consider that Brown left Kansas for the NBA and Williams for UNC, and it shows just how respected this position is in the college basketball world.  Add in that Bill Self left a prominent Big Ten school in Illinois to take the job, and you can see why it is listed at number four.

What puts Kansas ahead of Kentucky is their recent success; 20 straight NCAA Tourney berths, three Final Fours since 2002, and of course last year’s National Title.

3. UCLA-

I could see the argument that UCLA should be number one because of the success that John Wooden brought to the Bruins in the 1960’s and 70’s, including seven straight National Titles.  But since Wooden retired in 1975, UCLA has had eight head coaches.

The Bruins are still the cream of the crop out West, but despite having made three consecutive trips to the Final Four from 2006-2008, have fallen behind Duke and Carolina in desirable destinations.

2. Duke-
How anxious are Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski for the day that Mike Krzyzewski decides to retire.  While Duke does not have the historic success of a UCLA, or Kentucky, their recent success is second to none.  Since Coach K became head coach in 1981, Duke ranks number one in NCAA Championships (3), Final Fours (10), and NCAA Tournament wins (71).

Coach K has brought Duke to the top of the college basketball world.  Every coach will be drooling over this job when it finally becomes available.

1. North Carolina-
It was a major statement when Roy Williams left a Kansas team that he had just taken to the National Championship game to head to UNC.  Sure, Williams had been an assistant at Carolina under Dean Smith for 11 seasons, but to leave a year-in, year-out National Title contender where you had just spent the last 15 years as head coach to take over the Tar Heels certainly says something.

Dean Smith set the bar at North Carolina, piling up 879 wins in 37 years as head coach.  Carolina is second all-time with 17 Final Four appearances and has won four National Championships.  UNC is always a major player in the recruiting race, pulling in the top high school players from all around the country, including 50 McDonald’s All-Americans.

Honorable Mentions: Georgetown, Louisville, Memphis